“One of the most precious joys in life is getting to meet other cultures and other people,” says Embajadora (Ambassador) Reyna Torres Mendívil, Consul General of the Consulado General de México en San Antonio (Mexican Consulate in San Antonio).
The Ambassador has experienced that precious joy throughout her career as a diplomat for the Mexican Government. This is her first posting in Texas, however, and she admits that she came in with all the pre-conceived clichés and stereotypes about the state. She was inspired by the community she found. “This is such an amazing city- diverse and inclusive,” she explains.
Embajadora Reyna Torres Mendívil stands for a portrait in front of the Mexican Consulate in downtown San Antonio. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Ambassador Torres Mendívil represents the interests of her country and fellow citizens in San Antonio and South Texas but for her, the job goes far beyond that. It truly is the task with many faces. For example, there are the standard functions associated with a consulate, such as passport services, health and education programs, financial literacy, etc. As well as forging relationships with the local government, business and non-profit communities.
“Cities are playing an incredible role in the bi-lateral relationship,” explains the Ambassador, saying that in today’s diplomatic climate, it is the millions of connections on a local level that are building international relationships.
There are many different partners that help forge and foster these relationships. The Ambassador cites companies like H-E-B and Valero, who have operations in Mexico, as drivers of economic partnerships. The University of the Incarnate Word has two campuses in Mexico, encouraging the exchange of culture and ideas between academic communities. The Ambassador reaffirms her commitment to work with partners like The World Affairs Council of San Antonio and the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in addition to established Municipal relationships.
But these ties go beyond the relationship between governments, the economic partnerships and even the exchange of university students. The Ambassador knows that the deep cultural and historical bonds are of just as much relevance as the current relationship between San Antonio and Mexico. The task of strengthening that relationship lies in embracing those common roots.
La Antorcha de Amistad (The Torch of Friendship) symbolizes the power of friendship, cooperation, and shared culture between San Antonio and Mexico. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
“You can feel the connection to Mexico everywhere,” she continues. Whether in art installations like La Antorcha de Amistad or The Alas by the Tower of the Americas; or more official connections like the signing of NAFTA at La Villita, the penning of the Plan of San Luis Potosí by Francisco Madero in a downtown hotel, San Antonio and Mexico are intertwined.
The Alas, a tricentennial gift from Mexico city stands at Hemisfair Park near the Tower of Americas. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
The mixing of cultures is perhaps best exemplified by the Instituto Cultural de México (Mexican Cultural Institute) at Hemisfair. The Institute has been a showcase of Mexican culture since its inception at Hemisfair 68’ and is now administered by the Consulate. “The intent now is to construct an institution that is part of the community of San Antonio,” explains Ambassador Torres Mendívil, “It’s not only for Mexicans or to showcase Mexican culture.”
That blending of cultures speaks to the future the Ambassador sees for Mexico and San Antonio. And it’s not just about the importance of Mexico to San Antonio, says the Ambassador, but the importance of San Antonio to Mexico. “I want the new administration [in Mexico] to be aware of the importance.”
This September, the entire San Antonio community will be invited to celebrate Mexican Independence Day like the city never has before. The Consulate is partnering with Market Square and Avenida Guadalupe to unite what used to be a separate parade and festival into one celebration.
“This celebration should engage all San Antonians,” The Ambassador calls for a more cohesive “Fiestas Patrias.” The day will be celebrated simultaneously by Mexican Consulates around the world and the entire San Antonio community.
Top image by Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio